Notes from the Island
February 2007

I finally got around to cleaning the much-neglected ladies locker room. The room has been especially filthy ever since the roof was replaced when large amounts of dirt fell onto everything in there. I swept out the spider webs and cleaned the tops of all the lockers. When I mopped the floor it turned six shades lighter. I also removed two old metal lockers.

The "warm room" was my next project and I cleaned and moved furniture around in there. I've also been doing some painting in my place and it's great to have freshly painted doors in my kitchen. Painted plywood looks so much better then bare plywood.

There have been occasional eagle sightings but I'm worried that we might not get a breeding pair this year. The eagles should be close to laying their eggs now, but unfortunately the nest is still quiet. There are two red-shouldered hawks that remain very active on the Island. One time I found them perched together right outside my window.

One Monday night I hiked in the moonlight. It's not often that conditions are just right and it's possible to hike at night. That's why when everything lined up that night, I had to drop what I was doing and go for it. One convenient thing I've noticed about the moon is that when itís at its fullest, it rises right at sunset giving optimum hours of full-moon light. Later in the month, as the moon wanes, it rises later and later in the evening. On this night the moon was high in the sky by 7:30. Perfect. I could take a nice hike and be in bed at a reasonable hour.

For me, most hikes start with a canoe ride and that night I decided to paddle over to the Virginia shore so I could hike up to the Beltway on the Potomac Heritage Trail. The moon was so bright as I crossed the river that I swear I could have read the newspaper. The air was calm and warm and the moonlight made it feel like a new adventure even though I've done this hike many times during the day. The moon shone from behind me and seemed to follow the river so I had little trouble hiking the rocky trail and never had to use my headlamp. The only problem I had was when a large tree blocked the light and cast a deep black shadow on the trail. I was hoping that this nocturnal hike would produce a coyote sighting, but unfortunately that didn't happen. I did hear an owl. I wasn't positive that it was our Common Barred Owl; the call might have been from a Great Horned Owl.

I decided not to hike all the way to the Beltway and I turned south up the steep hill to the ridge above the river. I walked back along the ridge through Turkey Run Park and had an excellent view of the lights of Glen Echo Heights, including the bright new neon red lights at the arcade in Glen Echo Park. Very cool. As I found my way back to the canoe in the silence of the night, the loud splash of a beaver tail on the water made me jump nearly out of my skin. I don't think the beavers are used to having company at this time of night, and two of them circled and smacked their tails on the surface nearby until I finished my drink of water and headed down river.

I started a second job working part time at The Children's Inn. My hours are Monday-Thursday in the mornings. If you don't know how to get onto the Island, please call me if you plan to come down during those times when I'm not here. I will be on the Island for all scheduled large parties and events.

-- Joe Hage, Sycamore Island Caretaker